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On the “Legitimate Right and Authority” to “Veto” Scientific Conclusions That Contradict Dogma

March 20, AD 2014 41 Comments

In my book Science Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki, I used the word “veto” in the introduction like this: “To understand this claim is to understand why the Catholic Church has a legitimate right and authority to veto scientific conclusions that directly contradict divinely revealed dogma.”

That word “veto” in the same sentence as “legitimate right and authority” and “science” and “dogma” seems to confound atheists. It’s like they hear: “The Church is trying to restrict science! Those awful Catholics would burn people if they could get away with it!”

Legitimate Right and Authority to Veto

The word “veto” means to refuse to consent to or to refuse to accept. For instance, if my daughter says she thinks cats have nine-lives, then I, as her mother, have the “legitimate right and authority” to refuse to consent to or accept that conclusion. 1) As her guardian I am obligated to teach her the truth. 2) I know a fuller truth about living things than she does. I can veto that conclusion. I can say, “No, cats do not have nine-lives; they only have one.” I can offer an explanation. The word “legitimate” refers to genuine (real) as opposed to spurious (fake). It also refers to lawfulness and hierarchy, thus “rights” and “authority.”

The Christian Creed and de fide dogma contain the truths revealed by God. The Church guards those truths for her children, like a mother. The Catholic Church has always vetoed heresy, as evidenced in the rich intellectual tradition of writings that defend against false conclusions. As Gilbert K. Chesterton poetically wrote of the “thrill of orthodoxy:”

To have fallen into any of those open traps of error and exaggeration which fashion after fashion and sect after sect set along the historic path of Christendom— that would indeed have been simple. It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect. (end of Chapter VI, Orthodoxy)

People who find “the wild truth” troubling usually have one or both of these misunderstandings: 1) They do not understand the limits of science and extend it beyond material objects and quantities because, by rejecting God, science has become their only source of truth. 2) They have an antagonistic preconception of dogma and orthodoxy, of authority altogether.

What Scientific Conclusions are We Talking About?

The so-called scientific conclusions aren’t actually scientific anything. They are ideologies grafted onto science. The modern confusions mostly concern the denial of the human soul and freedom of human persons, the eternity of time and immortality of man as robot, and the existence of God. (The links are but a few examples.) Whenever a scientist concludes that science proves there is no soul, that humans do not have free will, that science will make man immortal, that time has no beginning or end, or that God does not exist, the Church will not accept those materialistic, atheistic conclusions. Those ideas are not scientific. More importantly, they contradict revealed truth and, in doing so, they are dehumanizing.

Unfortunately people do think those questions are matters of science today, which is why it is critical for the limits of science to be clarified and heeded. Fr. Jaki was insistent on this and I reviewed it in the beginning of my book, found here.

The main purpose of the book was to accurately transmit Fr. Jaki’s work regarding the theological history of science. To understand how and why science emerged in a Christian culture is to grasp a splendid example of the way faith in the Christian Creed instills a mindset conducive to science, of truth guiding truth. Christian scholars in the Middle Ages rejected (vetoed) assumptions about the universe that no other ancient culture ever definitively rejected, namely pantheism, animism and the idea that time cycles eternally.

Of course, God does not force anyone to accept His grace. The Church teaches that people have free will (unlike some atheists, I should add), and no one can force anyone else to think anything they don’t want to think. However, it would be the height of hubris, if not hypocrisy, for the people who reject the Church and God’s grace to demand the Christians cave to fickledom, especially if those people have a problem with the word “veto” and “authority.”

Hello, and thank you for reading. I am a wife, mother of seven, and joyful convert to Catholicism. I write from my tiny office in a 100-year-old restored Adirondack mountain lodge. Read more about me here, with pictures. Find me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. "Like" my Facebook page Science Was Born of Christianity to follow updates about my book. God bless you!

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  • Charles Clarke

    I wouldn’t think in our time, that the Church would actively involve itself in the purview of “scientific truth”. Science is restricted to the physical world and cannot prove or disprove items of the metaphysical realm. Science is useful in the physical world only.

    • Micha Elyi

      You wouldn’t think that understanding His creation better would help us understand the Creator better but that’s why Catholics studied nature and invented empirical science.

      The science of history is useful for more than you imagine, too.

      • Charles C

        I agree. I don’t accept that science and religion automatically conflict as some would have us think. The Church accepts evolution as far as it goes. Evolutionary theory does not address religion and as such does not disprove the existence of God.

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  • WHB

    Why not? If so-called ‘scientific truth’ meddles in Faith and tries to debase or contradict it, the Church has a perfect platform and the deposit of Truth to deny such false teachings so the faithful are not confused. That is precisely where we have gone off the rails in the last 200 years. I wish the Church had been more forceful in ‘vetoing’ false teachings. Fr. Jaki’s work, as Stacy has clearly shown, clearly defines the divide between materialism, i. e., Science, and Philosophy and Faith. The Science worshippers hate this because they know the divide between the two domains is unbridgeable, and they do everything possible to obfuscate the issue, to confuse people of faith so they will feel foolish or stupid or ‘un-modern’. What Stacy has written about is the greatest problem of our time, central to the collapse of belief in God and the construction of the altar of Science.

    • Rationalist1

      Scientific inquiry does not really care about the multitude of religious truths that exist in world today except when they try to change or “veto” the results of science. If religions want to claim the existence of a soul, or re-incarnation or life after death, all science will say is that it has no evidence to support any of those claims. Religions are free and do claim that science can make now statements about metaphysical truths. That’s fine. Science will leave that to religions who are free to follow any metaphysics they wish to… but don’t expect science to respect your claims.

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  • David Peters

    Amen! This is so right on. I love the quote from Chesterton, and the wild truth! I’m glad the Church has taken a stand throughout the ages, including more recently. God really used the Church fathers to discern what was right. Thank God there is an authority today as well.

  • Ezbs

    “However, it would be the height of hubris, if not hypocrisy, for the people who reject the Church and God’s grace to demand the Christians cave to fickledom, especially if those people have a problem with the word “veto” and “authority.””

    Brilliant! Spot on.

  • Bill S

    Whenever a scientist concludes that science proves there is no soul, that humans do not have free will, that science will make man immortal, that time has no beginning or end, or that God does not exist, the Church will not accept those materialistic, atheistic conclusions.

    No one expects the Church to accept those materialistic, atheistic conclusions. Nonetheless, science can inform us that there is no accepted evidence for the existence of the soul. Science can provide evidence that we don’t have free will in some situations such as when decisions that we make are dependent on our situation. Science is studying consciousness but has no means of making us immortal. There is a beginning of the universe but time itself is eternal. The universe is expanding at an accelerated rate. There is no way for it to ever cease to exist. There is no end of time. Science can tell us that there is no evidence of the existence of the Judeo-Christian-Muslim God.

    It is up to us to interpret the data as we see fit.

  • Bill S

    The so-called scientific conclusions aren’t actually scientific anything. They are ideologies grafted onto science.

    It is such a mistake to favor religious beliefs over scientific conclusions. It is such a backward way of looking at life.

    • Ezbs

      But scientific beliefs can be flawed, because the agenda behind the research might be skewed or biased. Hence ideologies dictating the science, and therefore making scientific conclusions not absolute.

      Also science has its limits in that what we believe today may be disproved in the next century. This is because scientific understanding is limited to the extent of our ability to investigate the possibilities. Accurate Carbon dating, for example is a more recent advancement, which has revised previously held scientific conclusions.

      Science- the human study of Gods Creation- is vast and always limited to the current resources and information available.

      Faith and Reason outdates and withstands Scientific conclusions hands-down, because it has and never will change. This is because it has its foundation in revealed Truths by the very Creator of those Truths. You can’t tell me a scientist is on par with God.

      • Bill S

        Faith and Reason outdates and withstands Scientific conclusions hands-down, because it has and never will change.

        Science is closer to the truth because it does change in response to new discoveries. That is an asset, not a liability.

        • Ezbs

          It’s a liability when inaccurate scientific conclusions inform social and economic policy.

          Tim Flannery, a “climate change guru”, with a radical agenda fueled by his personal ecological ideology, has warned of disastrous rising sea levels in the near future. This tragically resulted in the introduction of a so-called “carbon tax” by the then government, which led to impossible standards of living for the wider community and the closure of many manufacturing businesses-both small and large. Climate change is packaged by most world governments as conclusive truth. It. Is. Not.

          The new incoming government is trying to repeal the disastrous tax, with great difficulty.

          When some scientists deem something conclusive when it is not, I don’t regard that an asset. I regard that a major problem. Particularly when said scientist lives in luxury off the propagation of his agenda, by the lovely Hawksbury River. Perhaps the sea level won’t affect his home. Miraculously.

          • Bill S

            It’s a liability when inaccurate scientific conclusions inform social and economic policy.

            Of course it is. Who could argue otherwise? Inaccurate scientific conclusions must be rectified. I don’t know if that is the case in the example you are using. If it is, it is a travesty. Religion has no place in determining whether that is the case or not. I’m just pondering religious beliefs.

          • Ezbs

            Yes Faith does have a place in rectifying inaccurate scientific conclusions.

            God created man in His image and put him in charge (and care) of His Creation. Science cannot make nature priority over the existence of Man, as was the case in Tim Flannerys ideology.

            Anyone with understanding of the purpose of Mans existence, which is the cornerstone of Christian Belief, would have quickly put up a red flag and not yielded to this latest popular agenda that was packaged as scientifically conclusive.

            Western Civilisation was founded upon the Judeo-Christian principles. And if you took away the labels you would find that your own thinking is much more aligned to this than you may want to admit.

            When you remove these principles from our western thought, you end up with social and cultural problems. As has happened in Modern day Europe. Countries like Germany are attempting to reverse this and revert back to the Christian-Judeo ethos to counter-attack the adverse affects of the Faithless society.

            When you give up fruit and replace it with sugar, you get rot.

            Why are you so afraid to ponder the Christian Faith? Are you afraid it may make sense?

          • Bill S

            Why are you so afraid to ponder the Christian Faith? Are you afraid it may make sense?

            I know already that it doesn’t make sense. I’m pondering its efficacy. It might not make sense, but its results do make sense. Whether I believe it is true or not, we are all better off because of Christianity. That’s why I don’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

          • Ezbs

            I’m glad.

            Christianity is beautiful. Your heart, my heart will remain restless until it finds rest in Him.

            I really wish you would try and really understand it before you discard it. Don’t learn it from the MSM or popular culture.

            I can’t explain Holy Communion to you. It’s like explaining how you felt when your child was born. There are no words. Our Faith gives us room to question and ask.

            No you can’t scientifically test The Eucharist to “prove” it is the Body and Blood of Jesus after Consecration- yet millions beleive it to be more true than the sky being blue.

            However there have been claimed Miracles of the presence of human flesh and blood that went under scientific scrutiny, which couldn’t be understood by a cold scientific mind. I can’t explain this.

            Also, any miracle that goes towards the Cause of a Saints Canonization in the Catholic Church is tested by Medical and Scientific inquiry in order to deem it a miracle – an outcome that defies human logic or explaination.

          • Bill S

            You just put in a nutshell the exact extent of my search. Time after time, I can get this far and no further.

            I would like to be able to believe 100% in naturalism and materialism. The last few steps in the process are explaining the Big Bang, consciousness, Eucharistic miracles, and miracles which lead to the canonization of Saints.

          • Ezbs

            Big topics. They are all based in the Spirutual, and you deny the Spiritual. Materialism and Naturalism denies the spiritual. You can’t ignore the spiritual dimension of life. Perhaps it’s these one-dimensional philosophies that you so dearly want to be true, and your only obstacle in fully accepting them is the matter of the Spiritual.

            For the Big Bang to have allegedly occurred, there needed to be a cause for the reaction. In other words, all things have their source, their beginning, just as all things will have their end.

            There needs to be a Creator, for Creation to have occurred. A source from which they sprung. Life itself and its details, parallels these intricacies that occur on a universal scale. God controls the little and the universal. If you realise how complex life on earth is, you would assume that these things are ordered and for a purpose. They do not occur out of chance. Chance never let me win the lotto. There is an author at work.

            Im certain you won’t be able to dispel the realities of the Eucharist Miracle, genuine Saintly Miracles and the Human Soul…if you don’t want to believe these to be Truth, then you don’t want to believe them to be Truth.

          • Bill S

            You make the unexplainable into the “spiritual”. To me, when I hear “spiritual”, I think “emotional”, “imaginary”, “inspirational”, “other worldly”, etc.

            By your definition, even the weather would have been considered to be spiritual until science explained its cause. Some of what you see as spiritual might someday be explained by science, at which point, it would no longer be unexplainable and therefore not be spiritual by your definition. It is the “God of the gaps” fallacy.

  • Bill S

    The Christian Creed and de fide dogma contain the truths revealed by God.

    This is a claim that lacks any true justification. It is based on proclamations made by men that words written by men have been revealed to them by a deity.

    Says who? The men writing the words do not say that these words were given to them by a deity. Only the prophets were presumptuous enough to occasionally say “Thus says The Lord”. And who is to say that they were right? Paul said that the scriptures are useful for teaching. But who is to say that he is right?

    What then exactly is the revealed word of God? Is it the teachings of Jesus? What did he teach? Blessed are the meek? Is that dogma? From whence does this so called “dogma” come and where is the evidence proving it to be true?

    • Ezbs

      Faith. Grounded in Reason.

      Even Aristotle argued the existence of God, without the use of Religious Scripture.

      Faith. God is the Author of Scripture. And with Scripture comes Tradition. Both are guided by what we believe to be the Holy Spirit, under the umbrella of The Church.

      You choose to beleive them and accept them.

      Or choose to disbelieve them and reject them.

      Its called Free Will.

      Science is the explaination of Gods Creation. Science has not and never will explain it all.

      Once again, we revert back to the unexplainable, but very real question of Faith.

      • Bill S

        Even Aristotle argued the existence of God, without the use of Religious Scripture.

        It is reasonable to postulate an intelligence behind all that is. But that is not the Judeo-Christian God.

        • Ezbs

          Says who? You? What makes you so certain you are right?

          • Bill S

            There is no way that the psychopath described in the Old Testament is the intelligence behind everything that we call the Cosmos or Nature.

          • Ezbs

            Psychopath?

            You would conclude that if Gid Created the world, then he has every right to destroy it.

            And you would also logically conclude that His rules prevail. And we adhere to them.

            Why should God adhere to your rules? Unless of course you have some supreme command over Creation…which I know you know you don’t.

          • Bill S

            I feel healthier not believing in that kind of God. No one has any right to destroy anything.

          • Ezbs

            I feel healthier if the rot in my food was removed too.

            Not sure what version of the Bible you are reding. The “psychopath” you refer to was tortured, and murdered with no stain against His name for a mankind that twists itself in a pretzel mocking Him.

            What a horrible God!

          • Bill S

            The “psychopath” you refer to was tortured, and murdered with no stain against His name for a mankind that twists itself in a pretzel mocking Him.

            I am referring to the God who required that of Jesus to appease himself for “Original Sin”. Such a God would be a psychopath.

          • Ezbs

            Jesus is God made Man.

          • Bill S

            That’s a religious belief. I have no use for religious beliefs in general and most specifically Catholic beliefs. But I’m always interested in being shown that I am wrong. You can’t prove anything with a religious belief. You need scientifically proven facts.

            All you have is faith, which in many cases is not an asset but a liability. Muslims have faith. Where is that getting them?

          • Ezbs

            No. You need Faith and Reason. Muslims lack the reason.

            I think you are going round in circles.

          • Ezbs

            If you are not open to consider all beliefs, including Catholic Beliefs, then you are not open to know the Truth.

            You talk in sound bytes. Know what you despise before you claim to despise it. It’s much more noble to acknowledge the Truth in something and admit to rejecting that Truth because it is your right to do so; than to unjustly skew the Truth and then say you despise it.

            The psychopathic God you eluded to earlier does not exist in Christian Faith. Nor does He exist in Catholicism.

          • Bill S

            Know what you despise before you claim to despise it.

            Otherwise I am following a strawman fallacy. I get that. But by not being able to provide any reasons for believing in the Eucharist, you are essentially saying that it must be accepted on faith.

            So, the decision is clear. Accept what essentially does not make any sense to me, or reject it. Sorry God, I just don’t get it.

          • Bill S

            I agree. Muslims do lack reason. But what about Christians? Don’t they also lack reason? How can one reason that bread and wine can be turned into someone’s body and blood? Is the only reasoning that Jesus said that it was? What other reasoning is there?

          • Ezbs

            Have you ever had Holy Communion? I don’t even know if you are a lapsed Christians perhaps. But if you have had Holy Communion, stripping away any cynicism, you may “get it”.

          • Bill S

            If I receive communion and feel like I have Christ within me, is that reasoning or is that just emotion? Where is the reasoning?

          • Ezbs

            Take the Christian-Judeo label off it.

            Then Define this “God” through the reasoning that Aristotle used.

            The Deity he concludes as the Creator is exactly what the Christian Judeo belief of God is.

            History, then concludes that Jesus of Nazareth existed, died and rose from the dead. This is evident through both first-hand accounts and historical fact correlated with Biblical accounts, and tradition passed down through the centuries, in the form of a Church. This is supported by the written accounts in all Gospels, whose stories correlate each other perfectly. This is further evidenced by the Christian Tradition that was formed and still stands strong in the belief of millions, and what is defined as Religion.

            The account of Christ’s life and death has never been contradicted, and most importantly, neither has His Ressurection.

            Faith tells me, logically, that It is Truth, unless you can prove otherwise.

            Not the other way around.

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  • Rationalist1

    First it was a questionable definition of science and now it’s a rather strained definition of veto. Typically people understand veto to prevent, as in the President vetoed a bill, not merely to not personally accept a bill. In the past the Catholic Church used to veto scientific positions, based upon it’s theology, use of this word by some in the Catholic Church would lead cause us to wonder if it still would, if it could.

    “Whenever a scientist concludes that science proves there is no soul” Science never proved there is no soul, only that there is no evidence for a soul that science can point to. You may argue that science can’t prove the existent of a soul because it can only deal with the physical and not the metaphysical, but all science can say is that there is not physical evidence for the soul. As to the metaphysical evidence, religions are free to claim what ever you like.